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Can you tell me where we can start again (cover art) Chapter Art

Chapter 102[]

Can you tell me where can we start over?[]

Royal Palace
Tharkad System
Lyran Commonwealth

Elizabeth Ngo's image was slightly dampened by the two rambunctious children following in her wake-minors rarely are forced to attend one of these things, and the kids were a definite distraction for the Lords and Ladies in the ballroom.

A harsh word would hardly help, since Amanda and Patrick were in the company of young Hanse.

"This is hardly child proof, is it?" Peter Steiner-Davion asked.

"The kids get along." Elizabeth noted casually."So...Alarion."


"We can't salvage it." she stated bluntly, "I sent a Marine team in to assess, they suicide rather than risk spreading it. Saw the reports, and I'm paying the death benefits directly to the families."

"The plague-it's not natural?" he asked

"Hell no." she scowled  while the kids scampered.  "This was engineered, you knew that already."

"Speculation on how it got there?" asked Peter

"Well, before my men suicided, they got infection reports and a spread diagram.  I think it came in shipments from Terra directly.  Ioto and Lockheed both went with Krupp, Krupp dragged their feet on deliveries for years, then all of a sudden everything they ordered was delivered on time. Only without the tech advice from the people to install it. Which is kinda funny if you consider the deliveries happened AFTER they used the Invincible to blow up the old palace.  It fits with the outbreaks in the orbitals."

"You're saying it can't be salvaged though." he stated

"Nope. The problem is we can't be sure anything's decontaminated. That bug spread right through some of the most cunning filtration and viral sweeps known to man." she shook her head, "No way to be sure there isn't a gift left there for someone unlucky enough to open it."

"Like Galedon then." he suggested

She nodded.  "I have had a thought.  If they wanted it to be truly weaponized, they'd have a cure. Why not use automated probes to take a soil sample. Let Blakist intel see you doing it...then drop a can of dirt on Terra and tell them it's from Alarion?"

"That's..." Peter began horrified

"A war crime, yep.  Panic ten billion people? Sure is." she said grimly, "Dropping the real thing there would be worse, but doable."

"Elizabeth..." began Peter

"They murdered worlds, Peter."  she said quietly, "For now I'm hoping we can keep up the false flag that it's just an outbreak of something wild, not a weapon...but you damned well know there need to be lines drawn, and an example made."

"I need you to stick around for a few days, I'm meeting with...people. It's diplomacy." said Peter

"I suck at diplomacy, you've got other experts." Liz commented.
"I don't have other experts who've indirectly influenced everything in a hundred light years of a minor world at the ass end of the Commonwealth. Then somehow invented a Navy out of nothing. Whom also can sit in a room with Marthe Pryde and wind up talking about landscaping and finances."

"Without her throwing something. Yeah." Liz grit her teeth.  "what is your endgame, Peter? what is the objective of these talks?"

"A coalition to finish off the Word of Blake and replace their influence with someone less...vicious?" Peter probed.

"You have Devlin Stone coming to dinner." she stated, "Don't you?"

"Yeah." he reluctantly replied

"With his scientifically egghead advisor David Lear...correct?" probed Liz


"Then you don't need me for that." she said, "If you've got those kind of doubts, you know the right answer already. You just don't like it."
"I'm kind of hoping I really don't." Peter told her.

"What does your wife think?" she asked.

Peter looked troubled.

"And Marthe? Will she also be attending?" Liz asked.

"She is."

"Good, I can punch her in the face and take my husband home." Liz stated, "I think I'm reaching my tolerance level for my man being borrowed by his woman boss."

"I've met Star Colonel Roshak, Liz.  I don't think you'll be able to drag him back to the homestead while the war is on." Peter said, "Just saying."

"I know." she frowned, "Three weeks in the last two years, Peter." she stated, "His children barely recognize their father... oh god, I'm turning into a Dependapottamus!"

The Archon laughed.  "Hardly, you're still a good fifty kilos too thin for that!"

"Why are we doing this so late?" she asked, "We're winning. I Corps and II Corps have breached deep into the Blake Protectorate.  We've recovered most of the Isle of Skye region, including Hesperus, we have their economy paralyzed, we're off the Comstar Teat for HPG communication, why sacrifice our gains?"

"That's what we're going to find out tonight." he said.

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